There are just 25 days remaining until the kickoff of the 2022 high school football season. But make no mistake, preparations for the upcoming campaign got underway months ago. And teams throughout northeast Georgia already are in full countdown mode.
With that in mind, we spent the last couple of weeks catching up with programs around our area to get a feel for how spring practice went, how the summer is going, and what coaches believe the Fall will look like. Our "Two-a-Days" series honors those old-school grinding sessions that lead us out of summer and into Fall, asking each area coach two key questions about the state of their respective programs.
Over the next two weeks, AccessWDUN's Friday Game Night will get you prepped for the start of gridiron action with responses from coaches throughout northeast Georgia. (Teams run in alphabetical order)...
The Panthers are coming off their best season and first playoff appearance since 2017. However, the graduation of several key starters on offense has them looking to fill some key spots and trying to develop depth, especially along the offensive line.
We caught up with coach Rich McWhorter to discuss the changes on the offensive line and what should be an outstanding secondary.
QUESTION: Coach, depth on the offensive line was hit hard by graduation. Who has stepped forward to help fill three big holes up front?
ANSWER: "Offensively our youngest and most inexperienced position will be up front this year. We are thankful to have a three-year starter and All-Region center in Holden Gilstrap, who should anchor our offensive line. We do have players like Blake Burge, Emmanuel Arreola, Ethan Mathewson, and Dylan Starnes, who all have some varsity experience, but we will continue to find the right five guys as we move towards August."
Q: On the positive side, y’all do have plenty of experience in the defensive secondary. Will this group be the one that provides the key leadership as you try and get the offense settled?
A: "We do return three of the four starters in our secondary and two of the four -- Xavier Bailey (1st Team) and Markel Oliver (2nd team) -- were All-Region players. Senior safety/wide receiver Mathew Whaley has continued to be a leader on the backend and players like sophomore Cooper Galley, senior Michael Thurmond, and junior Elijah Ling all have done a great job of rotating in and providing depth at each skill position this off season."